(Nov 20): When Alycia Lim has time to spare from her work as content manager for a public relations agency, she crochets small toys out of yarn, indulging in her passion for the Japanese art of amigurumi. What started out as a hobby has become a little business, with Lim selling stuffed animals, bags and purses on craft site Etsy under the name JellyBeanGirl Crafts.

“When I posted my work on social media, people started to ask if I took orders. So, I decided to begin taking commissions. My first order actually came from the US, for two golden retrievers,” says Lim. “Since then, I’ve made mini dolls and bunnies, as well as an amigurumi version of a girl and her dog. I also jumped on the Pokémon craze when it was big and had orders from people who were patient enough to wait up to six months for my crocheted pieces.”

Lim joins a growing pool of side hustlers — those who have a second job or business. The most popular forms of employment include driving for a ride-hailing company and selling things online, but they really vary as widely as people’s passions.

Andrienne Tho co-founded her dance studio Tangopura/The Lumen Room while still working as a corporate communications executive. “I’ve been dancing since I was young, pursuing various dances such as Lindy Hop, salsa, bachata and Argentine Tango. And through the years, my friends have always prodded me to have my own dance place,” says Tho, who also teaches at Tangopura. “The topic came up during a casual chat with a couple of fellow dancers who said they would be keen to partner with me to open a dance studio. Things escalated from there.”

Making use of technology
Enterprising people such as Lim and Tho are more common than you might think. In a recent survey by GoDaddy, a website hosting and domain company, more than half the respondents from Singapore were working a side gig alongside their day jobs. The survey, which gathered responses from 1,500 people across Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines, also found that 65% of those who did not have a side job would consider one in the future.

Technology may be making it easier for people to juggle two careers, says GoDaddy chief revenue officer Andrew Low Kah Kee. “More than half of the respondents in our study said they couldn’t actually do their side gig without the technology they were using. Technology... is enabling this as we’re seeing a growing adoption of smartphones. People are able to go online and do things from their pocket. That’s making things easier to have or to do,” he says.

Indeed, e-commerce is the top choice for a side gig among Singapore respondents. According to the survey, 66% would consider setting up an e-commerce website as a side job.

“There’s a high incidence rate of e-commerce as a side gig as you can actually do it anywhere, with your phone, pretty easily,” says Low, pointing out that technology makes it easy to acquire customers even while working another full-time job. Social media helps to concentrate viable customers for businesses to reach out to. “Your brand exists across all the channels out there, whether it is Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp,” he adds.

Pursuing a passion
While 67% of the Singapore respondents in GoDaddy’s survey cited increasing personal wealth as one of the top three reasons for a side job, passion (42%) and experiences (43%) were also important factors. “People are thinking about starting a business as a life experience — something they can take on, and try, and learn, and grow as a person. That’s a really interesting and unique finding,” says Low. “People are looking to build things around experiences that they are passionate about, whether that passion is making something or a service they provide.”

Tricia Lee, a communications executive who co-owns cat café The Company of Cats, says she started out hoping to raise awareness of issues close to her heart. “I’ve always been interested in animal welfare and wanted to do something outside my regular job that could help raise awareness about animal issues and adoption. It is a very meaningful business that we run — we raise awareness and funds for animal shelters and welfare groups, educate the public, give the cats a home and bring joy to people.”

Tho too says Tangopura is less a source of income and more a source of happiness. “It’s so easy to end up pulling long hours at work and leaving the office late at night. With the responsibility of having to run a studio, I have no choice but to pack up and leave the office on time. It’s a useful way to make work-life balance, well, more balanced.”

Her social circle, meanwhile, has expanded. “As one gets older, our social circles tend to become smaller. But the reverse is true here. I find myself getting to meet and befriend so many people from around the world. It’s fantastic because when I travel — to dance meets more often than not — there’s usually a dance friend or someone who knows somebody from that city who can host me or show me the local sights,” Tho says.

Of course, a little extra income does not hurt. JellyBeanGirl’s Lim says she spends more on materials than she makes in commissions. But in 2015, she was out of a job for a few months. “During that time, Jelly BeanGirl Crafts was a small source of income as I managed to squeeze in a few projects. Not massive, but it helped me feel better about myself,” she says.

Today, Lim is even thinking about expanding her business. “I’ve considered starting classes on weekends because I realised a lot of people want to make things themselves, [and] that may be the next step.

“At the end of the day, as long as it doesn’t interfere with my day job, I would want to push it as far as possible.”

This article appeared in Issue 806 (Nov 20) of The Edge Singapore which is on sale now.

Subscribe to The Edge at https://www.theedgesingapore.com/subscribe